On our last day of our summer roadtrip, we were headed from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, to Skagway, Alaska on the Klondike Highway. It’s one of my favorite drives and one I’ve made many times. There is so much wonderful scenery and historic significance from the Gold Rush. It still feels almost novel to me because I remember when this highway didn’t exist. There was so much talk around building the road and what a treacherous mountain pass it would be but the economics of transporting ore by road made it feasible.
Before the road was built, there was a railroad that traveled the entire distance – the White Pass Yukon Route, a narrow gauge railroad. It now runs only as far as Lake Bennett for tourists and and to pick up hikers following the Gold Rush route on the Chilkoot Trail. Mom and I took the train the year before I graduated from high school and as it happened, the year before the road was built. But the story of the train is for another day.
Inevitably on our roadtrips, we make our first stop not long after we’ve gotten underway – a symptom of drinking lots of water and coffee while we are packing up the truck to head out! On this day, our morning rest stop was at the site of the Robinson Flag Station, a whistle stop on the original railroad line. It closed in 1983 after the train quit running the full distance into Whitehorse. It was a nice day and I grabbed my camera to walk the short easy trail.
I saw this little guy not steps from our truck. It’s a gray jay but we just call them camp robbers, a name well deserved as they are always on the lookout for food and will steal anything they can find in your camp. All About Birds by Cornell University calls them “deceptively cute”.
There are some great signs about the history of the area and I walked slowly along reading each of them. There is also a lot of discarded stuff, various remnants of the flag station here and there, including this old stove about halfway down the trail.
I emerged from the brush next to the railroad tracks and was rewarded with this view of the original building.
I thought I might be able to get a good picture from the railroad tracks and once up there, I turned west but the view was mostly of an overgrown rail line. Still hopeful for a good picture, I turned around to look down the tracks towards the east and there it was:
I was surprised to see him and from this look on his face, apparently he was surprised to see me too. How long had he been watching me? Fortunately, the bear wasn’t too close and he wasn’t moving at all – just standing there staring at me. I zoomed in and snapped a couple more pictures before backing off the tracks and heading down the trail towards the truck.
I hollered for hubby to let him know there was a bear in the area and at first he thought I meant a black bear which we see all the time both at home and on the highway, in fact we saw a baker’s dozen alongside the highway in just two hours a couple nights before.
When I told him it was a brown bear, we had to walk back to the tracks so he could see it for himself. Surprisingly, it was standing in the very same place and looked back at us again before ambling off into the brush.
We’d been talking just the day before about all the wildlife we’ve seen on our recent Alcan Highway drives and realized one thing we had yet to see was a brownie. They are pretty rare in Juneau proper so we only see them when we are outside of town or traveling.
Happy we’d seen some wildlife, we returned to the truck and got back on the road. Not too far along, we came across these two.
Not as exciting as a brownie, but a couple of nice deer who thoughtfully posed for my pictures. What a great end to another fabulous drive on the Alaska Canada Highway!